The use of technology in medicine is rapidly expanding. This new chapter highlights a few technological tools that are either low-tech or relatively inexpensive. For tools not specifically designed for medical use, the clinician should judge the appropriateness and reliability of the technology in each situation.
Brand names and phone apps change quickly, so generic descriptions are used wherever possible. Specific names are provided as examples rather than recommendations, to facilitate searching for further information. Web links are not provided in this printed version, but all names can be rapidly found online. The authors do not recommend or endorse any named brand over any other equivalent brand.
Tips involving smart phone and social media should take into account guidelines around using personal devices for clinical images (e.g. RACGP, Sept 2019).1
The phone as a medical tool
Phones are an almost ubiquitous fixture carried everywhere by both doctors and patients. Standard functions on most smart phones can be used in the medical context (Fig. 18.1).
Mobile phones have many medical uses
A phone alarm set on permanent repeat (silent vibration if preferred) can serve as a reminder to take medication, whether daily for the oral contraceptive pill or more complex regimens of multiple medications throughout the day.
Purchasing a ‘medical alert’ has the advantage of being a single-press button that connects to an operator without too much cognitive or manual effort. However, a phone may be preferred as a free or budget-priced option. Emergency contact details (triple-zero and family/neighbours) can be programmed to appear at the very top of the contacts list, which may also be used by onlookers or medical services to contact next-of-kin if the phone is readily unlocked with a swipe.
Various commercial phone apps attempt to reproduce the ‘single big button’ functionality of a traditional medical alert system. Pressing the button may result in auto-dialling an operator (for a monthly subscription), sending an emergency SMS text message to a group of contacts, sending the location via the phone’s GPS tracking system or sounding an alarm to attract attention. Some apps place the button on the lock screen, reducing complexity for the user.
The phone’s LED light can be used as an eye torch and the vibration function as a ‘tuning fork’ for testing proprioception. Some apps integrate these functions onto a single screen, and at least one packages this with 60 neurological calculators and scoring systems (e.g. Neuro Toolkit, under $10).
A phone with soundproofed headphones can ...